Christmas Decorating: The Mantle

With the exception of the outdoors, we decorated everything today.
I. Am. Wiped. Out.
Yes, I took pictures of most things, but I can’t possibly inundate you with all of those at once, so I’m just starting with the mantle.
You know, this was kind of tricky. I’ve never had a mantle in the main part of the house before and I’ve most certainly never had one with a 4′ x 4′ mirror built in over it. I started by taking everything down. [Yes I know that it is more proper in the South to leave up your regular things and decorate around them, but that’s just too bad. If you are of a sensitive nature, you can just sit down. (ahem) Moving on.]
This is not exactly a “before” picture, because I had already started putting some things up there experimentally. I was so not happy with this. So I took a break and came back to it later.

Well, part of the break involved cruising around the internet looking at other people’s awesome decorating abilities. This was not exactly helpful. I mean, yes, there were good ideas, but hiring Martha Stewart to come and decorate for me is not exactly in the budget. For starts, I knew I was going to have to deal with the mirror. It couldn’t hide behind a rather summery painting anymore. There were garlands aplenty visible online, but I didn’t have the proper greenery available and wasn’t about to shell out for it either. I started getting carried away and was on the point of trying to figure out on my own how to make a magnolia leaf garland to fit over (not on) the mantle when I stopped and realized that if I was searching for this and not finding it, there was probably a good reason.

Snobbishly, I felt I couldn’t hang a fake garland over this impressive mantle. After ruling out magnolia, I figured the best way to feel better about fake was to light it up.


Don’t ya just love the ceiling fan? I couldn’t get it out of the picture.



Oh, wait, sure you can! You just move in juuuuust the right place.


So, ok, I had to pop two skinny nails in. I’m so over worrying about nail holes. I hate electrical cords a lot more but I was able to hide this one partially by virtue of it being white on a whitish wall. I also was able to tuck it just behind the molding. A little tape to keep it there and voila!

So, now to the mantle itself. I had immediately decided that my grandparents’ nativity would be front and center. Unfortunately, it’s pasteboard and not very young. It looked pretty shabby up there and the more I added to either side, the worse it looked. I stepped away from this problem for a while too. It was at this point that we put the lights up on the tree.

Several strings later we decided we needed at least two more (the more the merrier) and I was off to the store to get them and a few odds and ends. On the way, I realized that because the mantle was all white, I had a fantastic chance to use a decorating trick I’d seen years ago and wished I could do. I got a yard of tulle and a small string of clear lights on white wire. The rest is easy as pie. I just laid the lights on the mantle, going behind the nativity scene and worked the tulle (I had to split it down the middle just to get more length – you don’t need the width) around the lights, covering them. Dabbing here and there artistically finished it. Then I just worked in some of the things I had already put up there.

The little bottle tree on the left is in terrible shape, but it was packed with the
Nativity set so I’ve always put them up together. I hung a crocheted snowflake
on the pillar candle. Instant winter!

Same area, but from above. The tulle really softens the light.

This is to the left of the Nativity. I have no idea where we got that little
wooden church in the foreground. Everything turned out white and goldish.

This is a very bad picture of the center of the Nativity.
There is a hole cut in the center of the roof for light to shine in, but it wasn’t.
I propped a few bulbs covered in tulle in the opening and it shone the light
in just the right place. Go here to see better pictures of the whole thing.

So the only things left were the stockings. I had gone back and forth about how to hang them. In the past several years we hung them on the stair rail. No stairs this year. I just happened upon cheap hangers when I was getting the lights this evening. The kind that are heavy and have a hook in front. Not especially pretty, but not very obtrusive either.

There they are!

I made these in stages. The two on the left were for Father and me for
our first Christmas. When Ribby was born, she got the red one. My mother
 made it for me when I was a baby. When we had Duchess, I had to make one
for Ribby and we gave her the red one. Several children later, Father and I
 dropped out and they have all the stockings.



But the red one always belongs to the baby.

13 thoughts on “Christmas Decorating: The Mantle

  1. Your mantle is beautiful! I think you did a great job.

    I've been a Southerner all my life and I never knew there was a rule about how to decorate mantles. Many times I have left my usual items on the mantle and decorated around them, but that's just because I'm lazy.

    We got our tree put up on Saturday, but I've yet to start working on the mantle or get the Nativity set up.

    I love the crochet snowflakes. Every year I remember about how much I love them and vow to make some for the next Christmas, and every year I forget about it until it's too late!

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  2. DISCLAIMER: I did NOT make the snowflakes! I wish I were able to. Instead, I bought them a few years ago on Lillian Vernon. I just looked and they're not available which is a shame because they were SO inexpensive.

    But I'm flattered you think I did make them!

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  3. Your mantle is beautiful! My mantle is always bare with just a canvas of my children hanging over it and I usually go all out with garland etc… this year I went with a minimalist look of just stockings with decorative stocking hangers and I'm happy with the change. But I'm sure it will be embellished in the future.

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  4. Thanks for sharing the photos and traditions!

    This year will be my first at attempting to decorate the mantle. I've been looking for the stocking holders that you have, but no, they are all part of a set.

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  5. It looks beautiful! I didn't even notice the fan in the photo until you pointed it out 🙂

    I decorated our mantle this year with a garland of red flowers and some festive-ish candles. I'm happy with the result, but our house isn't very festive looking overall. I am just too cheap to buy a lot of decorations. haha

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